Dark side of INSEAD - how the school destroyed the life of one MBA

A few weeks ago I mentioned on WSO that INSEAD has a dark side. A bunch of people DM'ed me, asking to learn more about our experience (my wife was an INSEAD student, and I was her sig-o keeping her company). I have decided to come out and share this experience so that perspective students can evaluate INSEAD in a full-spectrum.

TLDR: INSEAD was pretty ridiculously harsh about grades and kicked my wife out, and ruined her life.
They pretend to be a "safe place to fail" and "inclusive of foreign cultures" when in reality neither is the opposite. It would be truer to say "we do NOT tolerate failure, and you're not safe" and "we bend your foreign culture to the European way."

My wife is mainland Chinese, and her English was not great. After she got the offer, she had to choose between the top Chinese MBA and INSEAD. Given her concerns over language of instruction, she was apprehensive about attending INSEAD. INSEAD made a bit show about being a "safe place to fail" and their culturally inclusive nature - a line we heard multiple times on campus.

She then began attending INSEAD in Singapore. She was shy about raising her hand in class. In many classes 50% of the points are for class participation. That is so that any student can shoot up their hand, flap their lips and get 50% credit as a baseline. In a sense, it gives the Americans and Europeans get more points to start with then their more reserved Asian counterparts. (You should hear some of the mindless gum flapping that happens). My wife's cultural background made her VERY uncomfortable to speak in class, for both cultural and linguistic reasons. So instead she worked her ass off (100+ hrs / wk) so she could grasp the material. Her class participation grades were 0, and she earned a 1.98 GPA, when the minimum was 2.0, and the school kicked her out. They flat-out refused to 'round up' or take into account that English was not her native language,

In the summer in the middle of her INSEAD experience she completed a summer internship at Goldman Sachs, and received a return offer. At the end of the summer, the school contacted her, and told her she was not welcome back at all due to academic dismissal. They refused to accept that 1.98 GPA could be rounded up to meet the 2.0 GPA threshold. She went to Singapore to discuss with the dean directly, who for several days refused to see her. She camped out in the cafe next to the school until he consented to meet with her in his office. He told her she failed to meet their academic threshold, that she would not be receiving her tuition back for completed classes, but that could have back her tuition for the classes not-yet taken. He then had security escort her to the edge of campus and confiscate her student ID! She felt like a criminal and broke down crying at the edge of campus, having just been physically removed from the campus and having her ID physically removed from her person. Like refuse discarded from the school under armed guard. Ultimately her full time offer at GS was rescinded since she did not complete the MBA. The trauma of the experience left her unwilling to interview for professional jobs. She feels so humiliated at having to explain why she left a good job to go to attend INSEAD and then not complete it.

Now instead she invests privately for our little family in distressed real estate. Fortunately she's quite good at that, and her most recent deal will net us $4-5mn. But the way the school treated her was beyond abysmal and inexcusable.

Perspective students should know about INSEAD and how they treat students. Especially as they bill themselves as "the business school for the world" which is particularly egregious BS.

WSO Elite Modeling Package

  • 6 courses to mastery: Excel, Financial Statement, LBO, M&A, Valuation and DCF
  • Elite instructors from top BB investment banks and private equity megafunds
  • Includes Company DB + Video Library Access (1 year)

Comments (83)

Jan 6, 2020 - 6:49pm

Also a word on INSEAD academics - let's not pretend that an already-compressed 2 year MBA with internships can somehow be turned into a 10-month experience, and be considered the same. What INSEAD does do is give consulting firms a way of stamping their junior consultants as MBAs in a rapid way (10 months of leave instead of 24), and as a well-branded European b-school, they don't have to really compete against top-10 US business schools. Instead it's "we're the best in Europe." Oh, ok.

When I compare it to my own top-10 MBA, I see major academic shortfalls. I had a full quarter of advanced regressions. They SAW a regression once and provided some analysis. I had 3 classes in finance, they had a 7-week module. Let's not get all moist thinking about the academic prowess of short and rushed modules when compared to full US MBA classes.

Now I'll be the fist to admit the MBA as a concept has shortfalls. We took a bunch of classes, we didn't learn a proper trade like an engineer or physician did. We just took some f-ing classes. But INSEAD took the deception to a whole new level by shortening the classes into super-compressed modules where the material was lightly presented, rushed thru, not properly learned or digested, then spit out half-cocked MBAs into the consulting world. The value is the brand, built thru a carefully cultivated image. The content - very light and unimpressive.

Example - just one real estate class (at least, in SG) and it was taught super quickly and lightly, with less content than my first summer undergrad real estate class. It was very lightweight.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jan 6, 2020 - 7:03pm

I am not a fan of INSEAD as to be frank the student body quality is really mixed. The fact that your wife was able to get into a program like that with limited English skills is truly baffling to me, but is not surprising. I don't mean to be offensive but there's a very limited chance that such a person would have gotten into a m7 in the US, unless of course they were the prince or something. when folks here try to equate insead to a m7, I lose it.

FYI - I'm a graduate of booth. I got into booth, Columbia and Sloan for my mba. Did not get into hbs and rejected by Wharton after interview

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jan 6, 2020 - 7:07pm

Completely agree. I'd even go further and argue that EU b-schools as a whole are lacking compared to their US counterparts.

Learn More

300+ video lessons across 6 modeling courses taught by elite practitioners at the top investment banks and private equity funds -- Excel Modeling -- Financial Statement Modeling -- M&A Modeling -- LBO Modeling -- DCF and Valuation Modeling -- ALL INCLUDED + 2 Huge Bonuses.

Learn more
Jan 6, 2020 - 7:43pm

Fuck INSEAD. Send this story out to as many important people as possible. Best of wishes to your family, man.


  • 7
  • 4
Jan 6, 2020 - 7:48pm

Yeah send this story to some business insider or something like that (see my other post on hot women in finance)

Jan 6, 2020 - 7:54pm

I don't say this lightly when I say INSEAD is a garbage school. The candidates I've interviewed there (numerous) are absolute morons. Firm hired an associate from there before I came aboard and she lasted 3 months.

Global rankings don't mean shit, the fact that INSEAD is ranked higher than Wharton, Columbia, MIT Sloan, London Business School, and Booth is downright hilarious.

However, your wife should have definitely put more effort into participating, regardless of how bad her English is. Kind of sounds like a victim post. Props for her sitting outside and demanding a talk with the Dean (i bet the finance beast in you told her to do so) should have put that level of effort in her classes though (sorry to be the asshole).

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

  • 12
Jan 7, 2020 - 4:21am

I agree with all your points 100%. I agree she should have participated despite the challenges. Yes, I pushed her into it, so I'm an asshole. And while I did my best to help her, I think I should have done much more, so the failure is partially mine. I 100% agree. Not sure if my post is a victim post- more of an enraged venting post. I don't think INSEAD's treatment was at all equitable or in keeping with the way they present themselves (safe place to fail, supportive, etc.) I think if a student is busting their butt to get thru, an educator's job is to pull them up, not beat them up. Her grades showed marked improvement over the course of her studies, but the fact that she had a low starting GPA made it difficult to overcome and round-up. It's a complex issue. I'm proud of her for trying, annoyed with her for not participating more, disappointed in myself for helping less than I should, etc.

Jan 7, 2020 - 4:43am

oh i'm not calling you an asshole (was calling myself an asshole for pointing out the obvious).

really most guys in finance are super aggressive and if my gf had the opp to go to INSEAD, i'd prob force her into it. the thing is when someone doesn't really want to do something, it turns into a full-time job to make sure that they're keeping up.

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

  • 1
Jan 7, 2020 - 4:35am

And I 100% agree that ranking are ridiculous. There were certainly smart kids who went to INSEAD, but they were smart and well-trained before they got there, and then went to INSEAD because of the brand, consulting target school status, Asia presence, etc.

The 10 months doing an MBA-lite degree was not confidence inspiring.

I contrast that to M7 US schools, and I'm shocked at the difference. For example, I remember I was part of a real estate case competition which was multi-school. HBS and Wharton were incredibly strong. I was quite blown away by their analysis, as the teams each came up with an understanding that was superior to our own team's, and they saw things and had a depth of understanding of the answer that frankly we did not match. Limited to that case competition, HBS and Wharton each deserved the #1 and #2 spot for their performance. The MBA may be largely BS, but some top schools really do deserve credit for delivering a good education. INSEAD - not.

Jan 7, 2020 - 9:52am

I'm a Chinese who has been living, studying and working in the US for the last 7 years. I have a couple friends who attended schools in EU, including INSEAD (the French campus), and have heard of friends' saying their friends' experiences in Europe. Somehow some Europeans from certain countries (French, German, British, and surprisingly some South American students from Brazil) still feel "privileged" against Chinese people --- yes I mean downright racism --- even if it was 2018/2019 already (I heard the stories last year). The academic environment is not friendly to those Chinese students who worked super hard but could not get interviews and they often could not sign up for the best classes.

For anyone who somehow still feels this is right, think about the global political and economic picture, think hard. I definitely don't mean to criticize French/German/British as a whole. But for those who still feel privileged against Chinese (or another country) people...why are you thinking this way exactly? You still think you are the British empire, you are the glorious Gaul people, or you are the invincible Nazi?

Hey, it's 2020 now, get over it. There are 2 superpowers now and when you ask people would not say the UK and the US.

Jan 7, 2020 - 10:23am

Yeah that does really suck. It truly does. I really mean that.

Try being a non-white minority trying to study/work in China (or in East Asia in general). It's the same thing.

My broader point (and this is not a topic for this thread) is that there is rampant discrimination against minorities in most countries and it sucks and it is not ok. It is fascinating though, what some will complain about and then what they practice once on home turf.

My ethnic minority group certainly does not practice in reality what it preaches.

All of this is another reason why multi-cultural cities/societies are so prosperous despite their issues. I mean NYC, SF, London, Sydney etc. Being "foreign" in such places doesn't make you an outsider. Sadly that is not the case in much of the world.

Edited to add: In my over ten years in Asia, I have seen the attitudes of Chinese in general shift. There is much more self confidence, in business and in person and that's awesome. But there is also an alarming rise in arrogance/disdain for others. Also, don't fret about European arrogance, they still have that towards others as well, it's not just Chinese, I assure you.

I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.
  • 8
Jan 10, 2020 - 12:53pm

I'm a Chinese who has been living, studying and working in the US for the last 7 years. I have a couple friends who attended schools in EU, including INSEAD (the French campus), and have heard of friends' saying their friends' experiences in Europe. Somehow some Europeans from certain countries (French, German, British, and surprisingly some South American students from Brazil) still feel "privileged" against Chinese people --- yes I mean downright racism --- even if it was 2018/2019 already (I heard the stories last year). The academic environment is not friendly to those Chinese students who worked super hard but could not get interviews and they often could not sign up for the best classes.

For anyone who somehow still feels this is right, think about the global political and economic picture, think hard. I definitely don't mean to criticize French/German/British as a whole. But for those who still feel privileged against Chinese (or another country) people...why are you thinking this way exactly? You still think you are the British empire, you are the glorious Gaul people, or you are the invincible Nazi?

Hey, it's 2020 now, get over it. There are 2 superpowers now and when you ask people would not say the UK and the US.

You utter idiot. Do you have any idea how racist Chinese people are when it comes to other darker / brown skinned Asians?

Jan 13, 2020 - 10:01am

I surely know some racist tendencies. I'll say this: if you are well-educated, polite and maybe speak a little Chinese, then you will be welcomed. If you are a "white trash" or you come from a poor African country and you mess around, yes, you are not welcomed in China. Are you a Chinese? Have you been there for at least a few years and know how it really is? If not, hehe, your opinion is not valued. There is a comment below from a South Korean who has lived in both Korea and the West. That's valued opinion.

Throughout history, whenever people see people different from their own ethnicity groups, they show some tendencies of racism. Do I need to remind you about racism...in the country of great racism and segregation?

Jun 3, 2020 - 9:21am

the invincible Nazi

You realize that these guys form their group, rise to power for a few years, and then are immediately defeated in a war, right?

“Millionaires don't use astrology, billionaires do”
Jan 7, 2020 - 10:29am

OP - that is terrible to hear. I cannot imagine what that must have been like. It's great you are putting this out there and I hope you both do so in other areas so that prospective students can make more informed decisions.

And I am sure well wishers have beaten this to death in person, but perhaps it was for the best. If she's cleaned up $4-$5m then that is probably way more than she would have had she stayed in INSEAD and joined some prestigious boring cookie cutter job making too many ppts or crunching decimals in excel. It also shows (whether by luck or skill or some combination) that she can truly generate PnL and that's something few people can consistently do. Even those with fancy degrees...

And in the end, that's the real point in our business (financial services) and why so many people strive to go to such schools or join this board. TO MAKE MONEY.

She, for better or worse, took a different path and played super well with the tough hand she was dealt. Full credit to her. Who cares about going to grad school or joining whatever company now?!

I used to do Asia-Pacific PE (kind of like FoF). Now I do something else but happy to try and answer questions on that stuff.
  • 6
  • Intern in IB - Cov
Jan 7, 2020 - 11:04am

Who needs business school and the INSEAD brand name when you're able to net $4-5mm USD in one deal with the family fund?

Either A) You're a real estate wizard or B) You've got a baller war chest already, quite possibly both.

Jan 7, 2020 - 5:52pm

neither. I'm the working stiff donkey. She's a street-smart hustler. She got us a distressed-seller deal at 50% off of market price, but we had to close in 30 days all cash. We refied my previous apartment, which had appreciated a lot, and bought the new place at that steep discount for all cash. Barely made the cutoff. Now we're going to refi that and buy a third place. The 2nd place, the one she had us buy cheap, if it gets redeveloped should net us $4-5m. She's smart, just not smart enough to raise her hand and participate in an INSEAD classroom banter, whatever that means.

Jan 7, 2020 - 11:19am

This post will be rather long, but I'll do my best to address most things said here in an objective-ish way. I say objective-ish because I went to INSEAD a couple of years back. Should probably do an AMA on INSEAD, as there's a lot of misinformation around on predominantly US centric forums.

Firstly, my "data sources": applied twice to a total of 8 MBAs. First time to HSW and didn't get in, then 6 US and 2 Europe and got into Europe and top 10 US. Attended open days/lectures from almost all schools and went to alumni events for all schools in London. Feedback from friends at M7. INSEAD has an exchange with Kellogg and Wharton, so heard from both INSEAD people going on exchange to US and viceversa. Had Wharton people in my lectures/study groups. Also now work with a few people with M7 MBAs.

So, here we go:

  1. I'll start with two bad things about INSEAD. Firstly, it's very short (10 months) as others have pointed out. As I wanted to change company/role, it took me 3 months more to find a job. Also didn't have the summer internship as I started in August. Secondly, I think career services is below an M7, they should invest a bit more in expanding the team there. Overall, I really liked my experience there and the job offers I got in the end, and there are plenty of great things about INSEAD. But I leave that to another post.

  2. Not wanting to discount your wife's bad experience there, but I think INSEAD should be able to kick someone off the course if they don't pass the classes. All schools with grade nondisclosure press this "safe place to fail" mantra. Doesn't mean you can fail all the classes and pass. And I find it hard to believe that other schools would be more culturally inclusive, given the number of nationalities in a class (over 60 or so). To give some rough number, in my class of 500, I believe only 1 person got kicked out because of grades (he was European, so not a cultural issue), and 2 didn't graduate because of failing some late exams and not having enough credits.

  3. There were some people who I wondered how they got it, based on class performance, and I actually think INSEAD was too accommodating generally rather than harsh. I don't think the excuse of "English is not her first language" should work in a class where 80-90% of students don't have English as a first language. earthwalker7 what did you wife get on Toefl and GMAT verbal? I think they have some cutoff points for language proficiency. That being said, I've met people from M7 that I wasn't impressed with. In fact, I didn't apply to Booth at the time just because I was disappointed with the quality of Alums I met on some events in London.

  4. earthwalker7 , you mention a multi school real estate competition. Just fyi, as an example, INSEAD regularly attends the Kellogg one (where Harvard, Wharton, Columbia etc also go), and has won 2 of the last 6 ones. So quality of students is not as bad as you and Jamie_Diamond state. In fact, Jamie_Diamond , as a second year analyst in NY, how have you interviewed so many INSEAD students going for associate positions (not many apply to NY IB anyway)? Also, in my year, INSEAD was one of the most represented schools in London IB summer associate classes, so they can't be all that bad.

  5. Class participation. Almost no core class has 50% participation grade. Typical split is 50-60% exam, 10-20% participation and 20-30% case work/projects. As projects and cases are graded for the entire study group, it means your wife likely also failed the written exams (or got very low passes). In lectures everybody participates, whether they put their hand up or not (as in top US schools, professors do cold calling). So culture would not be an issue, especially given 50 or so Chinese students graduate every year, with some making Dean's list (top 10%).

  6. Quality of education. INSEAD has some of the same professors as top US schools, and uses both their cases and Harvard/Wharton etc cases. The 2 years of a US MBA is taught at a lower pace compared to INSEAD (eg. We didn't have days without classes in the first 4 months). The differences I saw and also heard from my people exchanging from Wharton is that INSEAD cases are more global and lectures are less formal than in the US. Also, you don't do an MBA to get specialist knowledge, classes have to be tailed to the average knowledge of students from various backgrounds.

Happy to expand on any of the above. earthwalker7 , I'm glad to hear your wife is back on her feet. But an MBA isn't for everybody and certainly not a 10-month intensive one.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jan 7, 2020 - 12:37pm

Ok man, I respect your view and I agree with you that there are outliers in every school (including h/s) whom you look at and wonder how the fuck are you here. That said, on the school's overall quality, I will politely disagree with you. A very minority of folks at m7 are sub-par and WTF quality; at insead, the "median" quality is barely passable from m7 standards. This is according to my own experience and friends' (at other m7s) who've interacted with insead folks at competitions. The general consensus is that it's a weak talent pool. Let me give you an example: at a few IM competitions organized by Kellogg, booth and Wharton, the INSEAd teams that showed up did a poor job, were badly prepared and were bad-mouthing their school peers (concerns like quality of English and communication skills of classmates as earthquake mentioned were RATHER common)...of course there are some rock stars who are INSEAd graduates but when you look at how many mba graduates insead has churned out, the % of successful (whichever way you want to define) is actually very low vs. those of the m7. Insead's focus is on quantity with passable quality. Lastly, none of the m7 schools look down up each other (sure some are more superior but all agree that the general quality is excellent). When it comes to insead, these opinions gyrate massively. Any school that is not consistently ranked by everyone in high regard cannot be a top school school

Jan 8, 2020 - 9:00am

Are you answering this question as student aiming to get into IB or did you attend an MBA at an M7 and went yourself to these IM competitions? Just trying to understand if this is 3rd party info or your own experiences?

If it is your own experiences and you heard INSEAD people badmouthing peers, that's a very poor attitude on their part. Although people like to complain in general, they shouldn't put others down. I always felt INSEAD was quite inclusive (I am an Eastern European from a lower middle class family background).

I just quickly googled some Kellogg competitions, could only find this VC Investment Challenge. Is this the one you meant? I see INSEAD participated in 2017, but they won 3rd prize, so couldn't have been the poorly prepared teams your were mentioning.

Also: "Any school that is not consistently ranked by everyone in high regard cannot be a top school" - I don't think that's a good approach to going to a business school. Brand recognition to the average person on the street matters less than what recruiters think. Not to mention even MBA ranking publications don't seem to agree which are the top schools.

Jan 8, 2020 - 9:03am

In most regards, it's pretty much the same thing at INSEAD. I was more in France, but also went to the Singapore campus for a few months. Professors are the same, student body is quite similar. As earthwacker mentioned below, there may be a difference in career services. But I didn't use them in Singapore much, so can't comment too much on that.

Jan 7, 2020 - 6:07pm

I don't disagree with your points on professors or student quality. I just think that the education cannot be compared to a US M7 MBA - and on that you and I also seem to agree. It's just not possible to cram an already compressed business education into a 10 month program.

  1. Professors - Are the teachers of similar quality to an M7 school? Certainly. In PE, Prof. Z and Michael were excellent, But do the students have enough time to absorb the material and take the follow-on classes? No way. 7 weeks of a finance core class cannot be compared to a multi-class battery of finance classes one takes at an M7. The abbreviated accounting module also stood out in my mind as particularly lacking. Again, I'm certain the professors are of good quality, and congrats on being able to buy and use HBS cases, but that does NOT make for a good b-school education. You need to build a foundation and layer onto it You need multiple classes in a subject and time to digest. The Cliff Notes version of finance is not going to be comparable to a Wharton multi-course finance education, or that of any M7.

  2. Students - As I mentioned, there were smart students at INSEAD, as in all top tier schools. But they were smart before they got there, and then INSEAD gave them a Cliff Notes education, And 1/2 of the students (fall intake) got no internship. That's a poor comparison to an M7 experience.

  3. Career services - in Singapore it was nonexistant. In Fonty, stronger I'd imagine. In SG, the finance career services officer knew less than the students. Job postings on campus were pretty good. But mostly the school is strong in consulting and far less in other areas. Career services was deeply underwhelming.

  4. Real estate case competition - if INSEAD won it was on the strength of the knowledge of the students BEFORE they got to INSEAD. The real estate class in INSEAD Singapore was a bad joke. I learned more in my first undergrad real estate class - and that's not hyperbole. The prof for the real estate class gave a deeply watered down Excel, said the students should learn from that, and basically didn't teach anything. It's an embarrassment really. And it was the ONLY real estate class offered in Asia. If INSEAD won any real estate competition it's because the students came in with a solid real estate foundation and won on their own merits not on anything the school imparted. As I said in my post - smart people got in and went. I just think the education was poor.

Jan 7, 2020 - 6:38pm

Where I disagree with you is in my outlook on how my wife was treated. I don't want to delve too much into this as it serves little value to a forum. But I believe in truth in advertising, and I don't think a school should state that they will be supportive and create a safe place to fail, and then aggressively kick out a student if they are genuinely working their ass off to pass. We hired outside tutors at our own expense, and she showed remarkable improvement off of a weak start. Most of her peers were phoning it in, weekending in other countries, and fucking in the swimming pool #divorsead. She was fighting hard. A school should support a hard-working student, not take them out under security guard and confiscate their ID at edge of campus, all the while flying the "supporting and safe" banner. If one goes to law school or medschool, you know it's going to be a place where failure is a very real potential outcome, and you budget mentally for that. In a b-school that advertises the opposite, one expects different treatment. When she sought tutoring, the school didn't help AT ALL. We were eager to pay, but struggled to find tutors. There aren't exactly a ton of people to get help from in small town Fonty or the outskirts of SG.

In terms of the other Chinese students - they ALL struggled with the participation aspect. They were not from an environment that encouraged class participation, and that they had to overcome cultural issues was a real struggle. They just may not have told you about it. Language was not as much of an issue - it's just that it makes it even harder to participate if you're also trying to look good AND conjugate. [I can't recall TOEFL score ,and GMAT was around 700]

When I did my MBA, I was on academic probation (my stats and accounting sucked). But my school made tutors available, got me some more time with the TAs and professors if I wanted it, and gave me a fair shake at working my way out of AP - which I did. My brother went to a top-10 MBA, and was on AP for a quarter. He worked his way out of it as well, with the school support. INSEAD was basically "fuck you, deal, and you better do it in the next 7 week module or you're outta here." That's how edcuators deal with challenges? Going gets tough, and you fuck off and blame the student? Come on.

Jan 8, 2020 - 9:24am

I can't comment on how your wife was treated, because I wasn't there. My comments were primarily on the principle of kicking people out if they continue to fail over several exam periods. I don't think a Bschool has the duty to make sure everyone who was admitted and paid the fees ends up with a degree.

You say: "Most of her peers were phoning it in, weekending in other countries..." I don't think that's relevant if they were passing the classes.

I'm also surprised to hear you couldn't find english tutors in Singapore (you mentioned in your first post that english level and confidence to speak up were the issues, and not the content of the classes, which you state was much lighter than US MBAs).

Jan 8, 2020 - 12:33pm

sorry to hear about your wife but it is important that you hear some hard truths for self growth. To caveat, I am an INSEAD alumni and got accepted to 2 M7s and 1 top 10 US school

The fact is that NO core class is 50/60% participation so she must have failed written exams and pretty sure she was allowed to retake classes and probably still failed. The truth is that a 2.0 GPA is an incredibly low bar and every year (across almost all schools), 1 or 2 people will fail. Also, I do not see how it is remotely possible to study 100 hours a week during the MBA - most students do 10-15 hours a week and 20-30hours in extreme cases. To your point on superstars, absolutely no business school makes anyone a superstar. Final point is that I would use the quality of alumni + career placements to assess quality of students: looking at start up funding, high profile alumni, career placement and advancement etc as a yardstick to judge student quality. On a like for like basis, I see no discernible difference in the quality of INSEAD students and other M7 school students in numerous financial institutions I have worked at i.e. European / Asian / America etc M7 student VS European / Asian / America etc INSEAD student

Having security escort her out was harsh but lets be objective in our criticism - glad either way that she was able to land on her feet

Jan 9, 2020 - 4:58pm

> But an MBA isn't for everybody and certainly not a 10-month intensive one.

This is pretty BS. Hardest part is getting in. Let's not pretend that they compress a 2 year program into 1 year.

Dec 1, 2020 - 1:06am

Will you elaborate on your timing for internships and finding jobs?

Are you from the USA?

What did you work in pre-insead?

Go, Go, Excel

Jan 8, 2020 - 8:12am

Don't want to sidetrack the convo but how do folks feel about LBS vs. INSEAD? Also in Europe right and can be 2 yrs vs. 10 months, or do they have same problems.

Curious because friends are comparing offers. Personally I would always pick the 2 yr option to give yourself max flexibility unless you are sponsored MBB or know that's where you want to go.

  • 1
Jan 8, 2020 - 9:45am

Depends on what your friends want to do and how they prefer to get there. For IB/Consulting, both will get you there if you pass the interviews, and almost the same large employers recruit for both. I think there have been posts on WSO discussing this, but I'll make a very quick summary below on my thoughts on the 2 options:

LBS: In London (networking, easy to meet employers), more structured internship, more time to think about career path, but more costs to pay vs INSEAD forlikely same outcome, probably has an edge on IB recruitment.

INSEAD: Multiple locations (more international experiences), Larger alumni network, Shorter and more intense (so need to get your act together sooner), probably has an edge in consulting (including for career changers, as you don't need an internship if you're at INSEAD) and PE/VC recruitment.

Jan 8, 2020 - 4:37pm

I think the 10 month vs. 2 year MBA is one of the key factors in choosing a school. And in this, the mentality of "I can get out in half the time, and thus less opportunity cost" is often heard, but this idea is totally wrong. Maybe if you're a top-flying highly-sought-after current McKinsey / Goldman rockstar, and you just need a quick-and-dirty MBA validation stamp on your CV - sure, INSEAD is great. And I suspect that's why so many consulting firms send their paid-for analysts there to rebrand them as MBAs and then bill them out higher as post-MBA associates. But if you're a career switcher, you'll need that internship very badly. And you will need time to network and hustle, and I didn't feel that a short MBA with rushed classes gives one much time to hustle up off-campus jobs. If you're going to INSEAD in SG, you're going to need to do a lot of hustling because it's not the employer-magnet that INSEAD Fonti is.

Jan 8, 2020 - 8:58am

I'm sorry for what happened to your wife, the whole situation sucks.

On the flip side, if your wife's most recent deal will really net you $4-5 millions, I think that she's way better off now than if she had gone on to finish her MBA and start working full-time. Honestly... no one makes $4-5mn a few years out of an MBA. This is a crazy figure, and if it's true, then you guys are going to be a very wealthy couple soon.

Jan 8, 2020 - 4:09pm

Thanks man. It's not all in the bag yet, but it is a work in progress and we're hopeful.

I project $4-5m in the next few years, and we're hopeful. But for sure we're at least $1mn up, and I think we'll get to $4-5m in time.

Basically she sourced a distressed-seller apartment at 50% of market value (we had to close quickly, all cash). It was a large $2mn mkt value property that we bought for $1mn.

If redevelopment of our area happens, then the developer has to give us the same sqm in new apartment + density bonus of 35%. Then we will own 300 sqm @ market rate of RMB 135k psm, for ~$5.4mn. Less the cost of $1mn, and we're looking at $4.5mn in gains.

Still - and this may sound silly given the above - it would have been nice to have her have a career. An MBA + a solid career gives a family a steady stream of income. And it gives one a chance to invest more . It is possible that she just got lucky on this deal. An education pays dividends well into the future, especially if you can climb onto a good career track. Never stop investing - but you gotta have $ coming in as well thru other means (job ideally + possibly some sidehustles)

Jun 3, 2020 - 8:29am

Love your posts, but sorry to be a bearer of bad news here.

While RMB 135k psm + 35% density bonus was historically achievable in hot areas in tier 1 cities, I think you will struggle to find developers pay this kind of premium price going forward. Personally am not aware of any developer's obiligtion to pay 35% density bonus or even market rate. It has always been a grey area in China with obscure legal requirements.

One example for you: they recently teared down the Huatai Community Park in Xiangmihu, Shenzhen. A very central location with market price of nearby properites at roughly RMB 70-100k psm. Wanna guess how much they are getting compensated?
- no density bonus
- RMB 59.4k psm

Disclaimer: I don't have an official source for the figure above but learned it through friend who lives in the area; also I don't work in any professional RE capacity in China so please do take it with a grain of salt


  • 2
Jan 9, 2020 - 11:36am

I think that that's not the best way to traet a student and maybe they could have given her a 2nd chance; but could you clarify what a couple of users have said about the participation grade being much lower than what you initially stated (10-20%)?


Jan 9, 2020 - 12:53pm

INSEAD alum here from about 10 years back. Will give my opinion.

While the only part I sympathize with is how your wife was treated as far as walking her out and taking her ID, which was completely unnecessary, but its a bit hard for me to feel bad for you and your wife for the rest of what you describe.

1) INSEAD (or any other MBA for that matter) does not have tough classes. MBAs serve two purposes, career change and for those of us who spend our younger 20s working a lot of hours as a bit of a break from the corporate life.

2) The grading at INSEAD is very lax, and the fact that your wife couldn't hack it there, makes me believe that she just isn't that good of a student. Which is ok, not everyone is good in an academic environment.

3) No INSEAD class uses 50% participation grades. As I went over a decade ago, I ran this by some more recent grads, and the most I've heard was 25-30%, so please don't be dramatic, people will believe what you write.

4) Your whole comparison of INSEAD to 2 year programs and the rigor of the classes and what not is only loosely based off of what students that apply to top MBA programs expect. Yes, if you are teaching finance and strategy concepts to an undergrad with no work experience, of course you should have longer, more involved classes, but as an MBA, if you are just trying to pick up on finance/statistics/whatever for the first time, you're in the wrong place anyway. As I recall, by the end of the ten months, most people, myself included, were over the whole 'back to school' thing anyway and wanted to go back to working. Having done the Wharton exchange and attending a few classes every M/W/R then taking a three day weekend, is hardly more rigorous, most students would be out of Philadelphia by 2pm every Thursday anyway to go have fun or do recruiting. (Btw, not downplaying Wharton at all, had a great experience there and met a lot of folks that I am still very close with, just using this point to argue the OPs claim).

5) INSEAD grads that you (and others that posted here) have met, are substandard in intelligence, ability to work, etc compared to other top MBAs. Stupid statement, there are idiots in every MBA program, there are incredibly smart people in every MBA program, its always a mix, so just because you are mad at INSEAD, maybe control your emotions a bit and don't label a very large group of people as idiots.

6) My INSEAD class had plenty of Chinese students, some of whom I am still good friends with, they seemed to do just fine, even the more shy ones. Don't blame your wife's failure on her cultural background, its very juvenile.

7) Ruined her life? Give me a break, getting kicked out of an MBA program (something that any senior professional knows is a joke anyway) is hardly life-ruining, you and your wife must not have faced any real adversity in life if you feel that this experience is worthy of a 'life ruin' mention. If your wife had a "great job" before, was able to get a GS internship and kills it in RE investing while you have your own family office where just the RE allocation alone is able to net you $4-5mn, (nice humble brag btw, congratulations on being very wealthy), I think she will be just fine. Good luck when you have a real experience that is 'life ruining'.

Anyway, I think ill stop there. I am sorry to hear about your wife's experience, no one should be made to feel like a criminal or be ignored by a dean of a school they attend, but I hope that you and your wife can take this experience as something that will make you stronger in the long run.

Jan 10, 2020 - 11:27am

To be honest the thing about INSEAD that sucks the most in France is its location is really bad. Like its in the middle of no where. Also, if you are planning on working in Europe, even with the INSEAD name i'd suggest to pick up an European language because that will open up so much many doors, especially if its French, as then the locals will open up as well.

However, I met a guy who was doing his MBA from Kelloggs who absolutely hated his exchange at INSEAD. So there's that!

  • 2
Jan 9, 2020 - 5:28pm

Cool, cool. So I'm going to tap out here now. I feel we've covered this topic to death at this point - both in terms of my wife's experience, and more importantly the school overall. Maybe an alumn should do an AMA sometime. It's been a vigorous debate, and I have said my piece. Prospects can weigh their options with both sides now expressed.

To Trailmix's comment above - I specifically went out of my way to state that INSEAD students and professors are on par with M7s. I think the caliber of students at all the M7s is fairly equal, and where one gets in is mostly a roll of the dice (I know a grad here, an alumn there, I BS'ed on my interview better there, etc).

BUT I also think compressing a 2 year degree into 10 months is a poor way of delivering an education. I also pointed out that if one is simply trying to get a piece of parchment / validation, then INSEAD serves that purpose. TrailMix, you seem to have had a really solid background going in to the program, and just wanted "a break from corporate life". As stated, INSEAD can give you that 1 year off. If one is a career switcher, and did NOT have that background, a 10 month MBA (with 50% of students not even doing an internship) is a bad idea, and won't give you the educational content, the time to digest it, or the time to hustle up a career switch careers (unless it's into consulting).

Caveat emptor.

(all the other stuff which is more personal, Trailmix, about us not having real hardships or the mistaken supposition that we come from wealth - well you couldn't be expected to know, but in this your assumption is 180-degrees wrong.)

Jan 9, 2020 - 6:14pm

I just assumed wealth, based on your RE return and family office comment that you made. If what you said is not true, then my comment is incorrect, but I just interpreted what you wrote, which seemed pretty direct.

"Now instead she invests privately for our little family in distressed real estate. Fortunately she's quite good at that, and her most recent deal will net us $4-5mn"

Jan 10, 2020 - 2:58am

I am very sorry for what have happened.

But it seems to be that OP's wife did not care about the school rule at all. I can't believe someone who got a GS summer failed to achieve a GPA higher than 2.0...

In the meantime, if you study in the US, students are definitely more extrovert than those in Europe in general since most of the students are Americans.

I don't see the culturally reversed problem happen as much nowadays for Chinese to be honest. Although it is a case by case thing.

Jan 10, 2020 - 2:06pm

First, I am an alumnus. The post is certainly just one side of the story. It is not super mature to write in that manner and completely destroy the school your wife had actually opted for.
There are lots of students from 70-90 nations. Most of them get both, grades in the bucket they have aimed for and a top job. Argument disproved, that Europeans and Americans are preferred!
Also, the arguments coming from insecure H/S/W overachievers here: Well, at INSEAD not every Friday is free and you have to contribute beyond the case from your own working experiences. Of course, that is much harder at 26, just having built company profiles as an analyst. Guess, that is bothering you.

Jan 11, 2020 - 2:54am

What earthwalker7 wrote was for a person who wants to transition into a particular field and i agree insead's 10 MONTH short priogram without an internship would hurt one's chances to achieve that, Thats all. No need to get butthurt about INSEAD - its a great school but just that not so good for career switchers (excluding consulting). PERIOD. Lets move on!
PS: Got admits from LBS and INSEAD and going to LBS. Thank god for this post to reaffirm what many are speaking.

Nov 28, 2020 - 6:41pm

Hi there - INSEAD alumni here. I dont think 10 months is a short time if you're looking to switch careers. But you have to know what you want to do before starting your MBA studies.

In my case, I wanted to move to finance so when I was admitted in March, I started studying for CFA right away. I stayed laser focused on moving to finance and I landed on a role at an IB eventually. In fact, about 10% of my class switched careers, and I see that they are doing fine (at least based on what they post on LinkedIn).

Feb 1, 2020 - 11:21am
  1. INSEAD admission did a poor job admitting someone who could not academically be successful. Had INSEAD a strong candidate pool, they would not have admitted her. INSEAD does not have a strong candidate pool, and it is not on par with US b-school.

  2. Your wife obviously is smart, driven, and successful and you should be proud of her. INSEAD failed her while it should have accommodated her special situation. INSEAD's behavior damaged her career and allow Goldman to see that INSEAD is willing to accept someone who can't even graduate. What a joke of a school!

  • 2
  • 2
Feb 11, 2020 - 10:35pm

I have to agree with the commenter who said public speaking is part of the curriculum, and she knew that going in. I also went to a business school where grading was 50% participation, and part of the reason I chose to attend was to get better at public speaking. Being forced to comment every day in front of a huge classroom made me a much better, calmer speaker. In fact, I'd say it was the single most valuable part of business school for me personally.

The school knows what it's doing when it makes participation count for 50% of grades. It's not doing it arbitrarily - it's saying you must participate to get a degree from that school. Your wife graduating with zero participation would be counterproductive to their forcing mechanism to get people to practice speaking up. However, INSEAD failed her by not reaching out to her after two weeks to tell her - either speak up or you will not graduate. I'm shocked no one bothered to give her feedback on that. It seems like she missed out on an opportunity to push her comfort zone and grow personally.

Regardless, sounds like your wife dodged a bullet. Banking sucks, and making $4M selling real estate sounds infinitely more rewarding and profitable than being an IBD associate anyway.

Mar 25, 2020 - 9:18pm

At et dignissimos dolores qui molestiae. Saepe quam et facilis ipsa pariatur architecto. Veniam natus porro consequuntur debitis et placeat. Consequuntur dolorem eum sit omnis.

Start Discussion

Popular Content See all

Total Avg Compensation

September 2021 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (10) $853
  • Vice President (38) $367
  • Associates (218) $232
  • 2nd Year Analyst (131) $152
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (30) $147
  • Intern/Summer Associate (102) $144
  • 1st Year Analyst (483) $135
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (375) $82